by Lisa Tome
Shannon Kenkelen is helping to give children a chance to do something they may not normally get to do this summer - be kids.
Kenkelen, who teaches at North East Elementary during the school year, is working at Camp Activate. The free camp is being held at three area elementary schools during July.
"This is an opportunity for kids who wouldn't typically go to camp," said Kenkelen. "This gives them a chance to be a kid. They have to be an adult at home sometimes."
Camp Activate is operated by YES (Youth Empowerment Source) and funded through the United Way, the Local Management Board, and private donations. During the camp this year, 191 children from schools in the Elkton and North East area are learning math, science, life skills, and participating in the President's Physical Fitness Challenge.
Jerilyn Jones is leading the camp at North East Elementary. There are also camps being held at Holly Hall and Gilpin Manor. In order to qualify to attend the camp, the children must be exiting grades three, four, or five, attend a Title I school, and be referred through a guidance counselor. The goal is to help children catch up on or maintain their skills to prevent the summer slide. The camp runs Monday through Thursday from 9:15 a.m. until 3 p.m.
"We want to keep them moving physically and mentally," said Jones.
Each camper receives free breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday provided by the school system's summer feeding program. "This is the first year that we've had hot meals. That's big," said Jones. Bus transportation is provided through some of the participating schools.
The campers are learning using some non traditional methods. Last week, they studied the heart and created a heart with chalk. For math, they play games using cards, dice, and other fun tools.
There is also an emphasis on team building and social skills, communication, and conflict resolution.
There is also sports and recreation. The campers are learning basketball, soccer, football, wiffle ball, and playing water games.
"Camp's been good," said Camper Chacory Tackett. "In the afternoon we play and have free time."
During the school year, Shermelle Biffle works as a gifted and talented instructional coordinator. This summer, she's a counselor at the camp. "A lot of kids are not very active during the summer. This gets them out and active. This is a purposeful summer," said Biffle.
Anyone who wants to help offset the cost of camp may donate online at the Youth Empowerment Source website.